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Paula-Paula

Other // Unrated // February 8, 2011
List Price: $19.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Tyler Foster | posted February 17, 2011 | E-mail the Author
From the moment I read the phrase "An Audio/Visual Experience" on the cover of Paula-Paula, a sense of dread set in. Call it close-minded, but the world of abstract or experimental film is, at best, a rough and rocky road, and the effort required to traverse it rarely results in anything worth the energy (especially when it comes to contemporary efforts). Thankfully (I guess), this new film by legendary smut auteur Jess Franco isn't impenetrable; instead, it's so limited in scope and production value that it's just faintly silly...but not, unfortunately, a worthwhile use of anyone's time.

The box claims there's a plot about a murdered woman named Paula (Paula Davis), and that her lover Paula (Carmen Montes) is being eyed as the culprit. I suppose the few lines of dialogue right at the beginning do indeed hint at this "story", but Franco's film is twenty minutes of slow-motion footage of Davis and Montes dancing, the former in a room decorated with large sheets of tinfoil, followed 40 minutes of slow-motion footage of the two having sex. And...well...that's kind of it. It's set to an enthusiastic, blaring jazz soundtrack by Friedrich Gulda, and Franco spent some time in Adobe Final Cut Pro tweaking the digital footage (he sure does love the "mirror" effect), but, aside from that brief intro, a short story told by Montes at about the halfway point, and an equally short "resolution", that's...really all that happens.

I suppose there's an audience for this. It must qualify as some mixture of performance art and softcore porn. Maybe Franco is also trying to substitute music for character's emotions, but seeing as Paula-Paula literally feels like he's stretched twenty minutes of footage to an impossible 67, the audience's patience will be gone long before the film is even a quarter of the way over (if that). It may live up to the claim "An Audio-Visual Experience", but none of it is particularly pleasurable.

The DVD
Paula-Paula arrives with gold-bordered DVD art that brings up the faintest hint of VHS-box nostalgia in its completely unstylish simplicity (a tone only complimented by the VHS-sourced InterVision logo before the main menu). The disc is tucked inside a white Amaray case, and there is no insert.

The Video and Audio
Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, it's almost impossible to tell whether Paula-Paula looks bad on accident or on purpose, but in any case, it doesn't look very good. Most of the time, the picture is plagued with artifacts, while in others, intentional-looking issues like blown-out whites and nearly inverted colors. The disc's Dolby Digital 2.0 is much, much better, blasting the jazz piano score through my speaker system with aplomb, but other than a few brief lines of dialogue, that's all there is to hear.

The Extras
Three extras with Jess Franco are included. The first is an "Introduction by Jess Franco" (1:24), where he reveals the film has only been done for a half hour at the time of recording. The second, "Jess Franco on Contemporary Filmmaking" (17:38), is a dry but impassioned discussion of the state of the film industry and the importance of making interesting, original films, as well as sexual politics and the rise of female directors in the US TV industry. Finally, "Jess Franco on Paula-Paula" (8:29) turns the discussion toward this film, and the inspirations behind it (primarily how "risky" the idea is). Franco seems like a nice guy, and his intentions are sound, but it's a little hard to get into the discussion having just seen Paula-Paula.

Conclusion
If you'd like to see a sex fantasy from the mind of Jess Franco, you're probably better off with anything else he's ever made. This is an amateur weekend art project released to DVD, and not a very good one at that. Skip it.


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